What is Depression?

Depression is a "whole-body" illness, involving your body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depressive illness cannot merely "pull themselves together" and get better. The symptoms of depression vary from person to person, and also depend on the severity of the depression. Depression causes changes in thinking, feeling, behavior, and physical well-being. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from depression.

Types of Depression

Major Depression
This is the most serious type of depression in terms of number of symptoms and severity of symptoms. However, you do not need to feel suicidal to have a major depression, and you do not need to have a history of hospitalizations either, although both of these factors are present in some people with major depression.

Dysthymic Disorder
This refers to a low to moderate level of depression that persists for at least two years, and often longer. While the symptoms are not as severe as a major depression, they are more enduring.

Bipolar Depression
This type includes both high and low mood swings, as well as a variety of other significant symptoms not present in other depressions.

Depressive Symptoms

Changes in Thinking

  • Self-destructive thoughts
  • Problems with concentration, decision making, short term memory
  • Excessive guilt, and self-criticism
  • Pessimism and poor self-esteem

Changes in Feelings

  • Sadness for no reason
  • Loss of enjoyment in activities
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness

Changes in Behavior

  • Social withdrawal
  • Change in appetite
  • Excessive crying
  • Lack of sexual activity

Changes in Physical Well-being

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Aches and pains